Setting up on your own is an exciting time but there are some mistakes new freelancers will want to avoid. I’ve worked from home for 20 years and I have made all these mistakes at one time or another. Not all are fatal in isolation but if you experience more than one at a time can put you under a great deal of pressure.
1. Taking on projects which are not your expertise
In the early days it is tempting to say yes to everything even it’s not quite what you’re cut out for. Stick to your niche. If you’re a food photographer don’t photograph weddings. If you’re a website developer don’t get involved in software development if it’s not your forte.
Over time you can broaden your expertise by learning and honing new skills but when you start out it’s better to collaborate with another expert to provide your client with the best service
2. Taking on too much
One of the reasons people leave the rat race is to have more control over their time and their workload. Whilst it’s tempting to cram as much as you can in the day you don’t want to burnout before you’ve even got going. If you don’t want to turn work away ask the client for more time. Very often you’ll find there are a few more days in the project. Keeping the lines of communication open with your client will pay dividends in the long run.
3. Misunderstandings over the brief
Many freelancers work quite amicably with clients for many years without a formal written contract. As the world becomes more litigious I would advise anyone starting out to have a contract with every client setting out your terms and conditions as well as a detailed brief. Most of these can be downloaded at low cost from reputable legal sites.
Your brief should state the scope of the work and the process for reviewing any changes. There may be occasions when a client adds tasks into the project midway. This is known as scope creep. We all like to be helpful but if it becomes significant you’ll need to address it sooner rather than later otherwise relations can become strained.
4. Not being resilient
The early days for any business can be tough. There will be highs and lows and when you get a knock back it’s important to develop a thick skin and not to take rejection personally. After every down there’s an up. Having a positive, glass half full attitude will go a long way dealing with problems.
5. No financial buffer
When you left the corporate world did you carry out a personal financial audit? It’s often an eye-
opener learning exactly where the money goes! The amount you need to cover the start up phase will depend on many factors including your attitude to risk. Risk takers will borrow from the bank or max out their credit cards. The prudent will have a year’s savings.We’re all different. If you have dependents then sufficient funds to cover six months expenditure is wise but if it’s just you and you’re both careful and driven then three may well be enough.
6. No built-in slack time
Sometimes things just take longer than planned – that’s life. Having some time set aside as a contingency will save you late nights completely the VAT return or the end of year accounts at the last minute. Schedule time to do the dreaded admin too.
7. Social media rabbit hole
Unless you’re disciplined, social media can be a major distraction. In an open office with lots of colleagues there’s always the chance the someone might look over your without the threat of someone looking over your shoulder. But at home there’s no such peer pressure and social media can simply suck you in and you end up wasting so much time.
8. No exercise
With no commute and a sedentary job, the desk based freelancer can end up sitting for much of the day. Take regular breaks, stretch, walk down the garden or better still go to the gym or walk the dog!
9. No dedicated workzone
When I surveyed 550 homepreneurs 34% of respondents told us that not having a dedicated work space was one of the top issues they have with their home-based business. Even if it’s just a small desk in the corner of a spare bedroom being able to leave your laptop or paperwork out after work will help separate work from home life. Drifting back to work when you have a home office might led to working all hours which isn’t really the idea of leaving corporate life.
Recognising these potential mistakes new freelancers can make can help you set up systems and processes to avoid them and with time good habits will become second nature.